Somerville’s Timothy Gager: Leader of Dire Series

On February 9, 2011, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

Timothy Gager, Leader of Dire Series

Writer, poet, and literary organizer Timothy Gager has made himself known in Somerville. He co-founded The Somerville New Writers Festival with yours truly in 2003, and he is a venerable member of Somerville’s Bagel Bards. For years he has worked in the Human Services. On any given day you can see him rushing to his many appointments from his office in the heart of Davis Square . Although Gager’s acclaimed reading series “Dire Reader” is housed in the Republic of Cambridge at the ” Out of the Blue Gallery” many a Somerville scribe has strut their literary stuff there.

In its 10 years in existence the series has seen all types of writers: the famous, the infamous, the upcoming, the blooming, and even the wilted. And that’s what Gager is all about. He likes the wide variety of talent that our neck of the woods provides. Gager wrote this piece for ” Off the Shelf” in celebration of ” Dire Reader” illustrious decade.


HOST: The Dire Literary Series is a laid back series not like any you’ve experienced. If you need to use the bathroom, please get up, it’s back to the right. If you need to smoke, please go outside anytime you wish. The cooler might be noisy from the ice when I pull beer out so don’t freak out about it. Also, if you’d like a beer, raise your hand and I’ll bring one to you. That’s me and that is how it starts. This is how it always starts. That is how it always started.

Except, at first there were two hosts, myself and John Bailey. We had a wacky idea that we were going to perform a variety show with music and readings. John and I had planning meetings. We needed a name for it so we went to a bar and drank. What we came up with reflected the dire need for a series of this type, but it also reflected the drinking. Thus the original name, The Dire Reader intentionally sounded like what it sounded like. Within the first year, the series needed to be taken seriously, so I called it just, The Dire Series.
The first event was sparsely attended by my poker buddies, a few family members and one person from my office who brought his son, whom was a writer. Not a single person signed up for the open mic so I had others read my short stories (without mentioning that) to fill time. We did a skit which involved John and I as the Zoom kids in prison making hooch out of toilet water. We sang the Zoom theme too. In a few months it became apparent to The Cantab that it wasn’t catching on so I was “canned” from there.

On the town, I ran into Gary Hicks who told me about the Out of the Blue Art Gallery. I went to 168 Brookline Avenue, met Tom Tipton and Deb Priestly and in less than five minutes they told me that it was all set. I could host Dire, there every month. They were and still are very easy to deal with.
The second or third month at 168 Brookline I had Doug Holder as a  feature and there was a snow storm. I didn’t cancel and about ten of us sat around and told stories. The first Dire held after 9/11 was a somber affair and was poorly attended. It was a time that people weren’t leaving their houses much. In 2005 I featured “A Day in the Life: 9/11/01″ by Neil Kenneth Goodchild who lost his sister in that tragedy.

Then suddenly in 2002, the Dire took off. There were full houses and great writers such as Sue Miller and Steve Almond–and the buzz was on! In July, in the second  year, I held the first Dire BBQ. I didn’t announce it, as it was on a whim, but it was held during a regular event where I stuck a cheap portable grill and cooked on the sidewalk in the front of the gallery.  Unfortunately, the grill was flattened by someone zigging and zagging in a drunken pinball state down Brookline Avenue.  After numerous warnings were ignored he fell directly on top of the hot grill.

The next BBQ was at the new site, which had a gas grill, and featured heavy hitter Tom Perrotta and Gary Kadet who wrote D/S: An Anti-Love Story.

No one was prepared when Gary showed up in full leather and a bull whip, which he snapped while reading passages from D/S. Tom Perrotta was extremely wide eyed during the whipping.

The Out of the Blue was becoming known for their events but also for their pets, Bear the dog  and two cats. In the middle of a Steve Almond reading, Tom Tipton walked in with Bear on a leash and a cat in his arms, which during a pause for breath by Steve, it meowed. Steve’s reading sounded: Sadly, B.B. is not much of a kisser. He presses too hard, and he doesn’t know how to modulate the whole mouth-opening-tongue-moving-forward thing. All effort and no technique, which is  (MEOW) A DOG and THERE IS A CAT MEOWING and A [expletive] MAN WALKING IN, DURING A READING!”

On another warm summer evening, I had the back door open and one of the cats entered with a big bloody rat in her mouth. Cats can be proud animals and he was the proudest  dude ever. He pranced to the reading area and dropped the dead animal near the reader. All hell broke. Chairs were overturned and people were screaming. I grabbed a broom and doing my best Bobby Orr impersonation; a perfect hockey slap-shot, and the rat ricocheted out the open back door.

Along the way Dire picked up a 2008 Best of Boston Award from the Phoenix.  Finally, The Dire Literary Series was being taken seriously for being what it was and what it was meant to be.

On February 4, the series celebrated their Tenth Anniversary. I’ve met so many writers that have featured and who’ve read in the open mic. The quality of the open mic never fails to impress me. I’ve had numerous open readers come back and feature when their books come out! Many have had long runs at the open, my favorites Murray, the IRS investigator and Bob, the cop, no longer come, but good people continue to come and they’re the ones I continue Dire for.


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